- Series: KMCI Press
- Paperback: 384 pages
- Publisher: Routledge; 1 edition (August 17, 2011)
- Language: English
- ISBN-10: 0750676558
- ISBN-13: 978-0750676557
- Product Dimensions: 6 x 0.9 x 9 inches
- Shipping Weight: 1.3 pounds (View shipping rates and policies)
- Average Customer Review: 4 customer reviews
- Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #2,602,523 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)
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Key Issues in the New Knowledge Management (KMCI Press) 1st Edition
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"This book is essential for academics, managers, and consultants who want to increase innovation, effectiveness and strategic focus in their organizations. The authors adroitly link the often-abstract issues of information processing and knowledge creation with the tangible and crucial management issues of organizational learning, motivation and culture that executives often neglect when formulating a knowledge management strategy. By relating these concepts in a straightforward, relevant and empowering way, Firestone and McElroy achieve [in this book] what Peter Senge has done for the field of organizational learning. Their carefully conceived structure and highly accessible framework has the capacity not only to inform, but to transform organizations and those who work in them. I highly recommend this book and the others in KMCI's series."
- Benyamin Bergmann Lichtenstein, Ph.D., Assistant Professor of Entrepreneurship and Emerging Enterprises, Syracuse University
Enterprises, Syracuse University
"Joe Firestone's and Mark McElroy's new book is a welcome look at some of the pendant issues to be addressed by any formal attempt to build a conceptual and technical KM system. Their views, drawn from learned analyses and extensive practice, challenge several widely held conceptions. Serious KM professionals and students will find these issues both stimulating and refreshing. They are bound to be engaged by the pertinence of the authors' questions and they will either be convinced by their innovative answers or be inspired to find their own. Key Issues in The New Knowledge Management is a critical reading for anyone who envisions a place for themselves on the KM map in the years ahead."
- Professor Francisco J. Carrillo, Director, Center for Knowledge Systems, ITESM
Firestone and McElroy, the architects of the New Knowledge Management (TNKM) provide an in-depth analysis of the most important issues in the field of Knowledge Management
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I have felt uncomfortable with the traditional knowledge pyramid which has a base of raw data, then information, knowledge and a capping of wisdom. The traditional model is superficially seductive. It assumes that pure data are converted into information and then semantically assimilated into a body of knowledge. The question asked by the authors is how can such data be primary, let alone pure? How can perception be primary? Without existing propensities or expectations, agents or their computers cannot perceive anything. An agent's pre-existing information provides structure to the world of experience. Data are types of information. Without structure experience is not data. What is normally treated as information is in the authors' view, "just information", that is to say information with conceptual commitments plus interpretations.
Knowledge is a subset of information (not a superset) that has been evaluated without ever being proven. Knowledge is an outcome of knowledge production and integration processes. It is an object (thing) that is uncertain but testable. Wisdom is knowledge coupled with value judgments and actionable assessments, it has untested metaphysical qualities.
Thus rather than a model based on a pyramid, it seems to be epistemologically more appropriate to picture a Knowledge Life Cycle in which data, "just information" and knowledge are types of information. New data and knowledge are made through this Knowledge Life Cycle from pre-existing information. That is from "just information", data, knowledge, and problems.
Karl Popper, to whom the authors are indebted, said that all life is problem solving. One might say that all knowledge management is problem solving. Corporations depend on validated information but this is not the same as saying they depend on true or certain information. The critical method is that of making all knowledge claims testable i.e. capable of being falsified by a non-empty universe of test statements. Those claims that have not been falsified are preferred to those that have failed testing, without the luxury of ever being content that the knowledge cycle has found a utopia of certain knowledge.
It is important in knowledge management to reject the notion that the function of knowledge systems is to be a bucket for pure data. The knowledge cycle exists to solve problems and the problems in turn structure the questions to be asked and the information model that is tentatively appropriate.
In the space of this review I have left out a lot of solid content. The book is an extremely valuable resource for its definitions sections alone, for instance it is pointed out that there is no consensus on the nature of knowledge. I agree heartily with their rejection of the venerable but circular "justified true belief" definition so beloved by empiricists who believe knowledge claims can be justified by, rather than tested against, facts.
The New Knowledge Management framework is based on Karl Popper's worlds of knowledge:
* World 1 knowledge - encoded structures in a physical system e.g. DNA
* World 2 knowledge - tacit, beliefs and belief predispositions in minds about the world, the beautiful and the right that we believe have survived our tests and evaluations
* World 3 knowledge - shareable linguistic formulations, knowledge claims about the world, the beautiful and the right e.g. books, wikis
Popper's three worlds' model is particularly useful for conceptualizing information systems. Far too often epistemologists have been blind to objective knowledge and been obsessed with tacit knowledge. It is a blind spot equivalent to humans in a pre-Darwinian age not seeing the evolutionary linkage between naked apes and furry apes. In this age of understanding of DNA and computer systems the existence of objective knowledge is surely not controversial. Animals and plants and humans know things without knowing that they know them. In fact most of our knowledge is not visible to us in any passage of time. Who would deny that a logarithmic table is knowledge, even though possibly no one memorizes it? Organizational data, information, and knowledge are World 3 objects.
A datum is the value of an observable, measurable, or calculable attribute or experience. Data are more than one attribute value. Information is always provided by a datum or data, because data are always specified in some conceptual context. One should avoid talking about data flowing like water into buckets, rather the agent via its senses acts as a searchlight that codes experience into data.
I recommend this book not only to information technology systems professionals but also to managers in general, psychology and philosophy students. There is much wisdom in it and the meta-context it provides could help prevent the building of systems that meet a dead end due to lack of focus on the cycle of knowledge.
All Life is Problem Solving
The book is difficult to read at best. All concepts are abstract with very few examples or applications in the real world. Even the diagrams are confusing. For example Firestone and McElroy propose a different model from the data-information pyramid called the Knowledge Life Cycle (KLC). The arguments make sense but instead of the diagram showing what the KLC consists of, it includes the KLC as a process. So you are left scratching your head.
A better book is "The Knowledge Management Toolkit" by Amrit Tiwana. It at least presents many examples and gives an approach in building a KMS.
Key Issues is one of the few works in the field of knowledge management that presents its model in a transparant way, open and ready to accept criticism. It is also a brave book, since it provides a an explicit knowledge theory, and normative stance to KM. More than enough edges to rub yourself against. However, the book does not seem to draw the ultimate consequence from the model, that positions KM as a source of corporate social innovation. The positioning is there, the argumentation strong, but there is no sign of practical elaboration of this aspect. Instead, this is left up to 'accountants', and it seems as if the authors define this aspect out of scope and remove it from their own working agenda. That is a missed opportunity, in view of the strong appeals made in TNKM, their earlier book. And it is contradicting the importance given to the issue in the model.
The book counts 350 pages and eleven chapters. The first five chapters deal with a thorough reflection on knowledge theory, and its implications for a knowledge management theory. Chapters six to ten deal with The New Knowledge Management Model. And chapter 11 is called "Conclusions", although it is 45 pages long and an interesting read on its own.
The authors carefully lay out the basic concepts of their model, taking a pragmatic and fallabilist perspective on knowledge. This means that knowledge development - a form of model construction - is led by pragmatic criteria. Knowledge is like a 'lense' used to define problems, develop acceptable solutions, and guide knowledge development. By making their model transparant, they provide openings to systematic scrutiny and discussion of their model. Even if the authors do not explicitly refer to it, I interpret the rationale of KM methodological approach to be an example of systematic, pragmatic model building. TNKM The KM model itself is laid-out in its various components as already available in my review of The New Knowledge Management, so that it is not necessary to discuss the model itself again.
In view of the model-character of knowledge, the heart of the matter of organizational KM is: what are the models governing decision-making and organizational behaviour, what is the quality of those models, and how can we improve those models in case we see that things go wrong in practice? The questions above make KM vulnerable to being misused, and to KM practices being ineffective or even destructive. This will be the case if KM practices are being used in a situation where basic assumptions or directives cannot be questioned (for reasons of misuse of hierarchy, power, ideology, desinterest etc.). The answer to this source of vulnerability is the normative concept of the Open Enterprise, which says that any assumption or priority should be open for discussion and scrutiny. Clearly, whether such a state will be present or not in an organization depends on the organizational culture and attitudes and ethics of actors. The degree in which such capacity is 'working', can be understood as the organization's social innovation capital. The normative element needed to pave KM's way to be a source of social innovation capital shows that KM as a pure instrumental management instrument can never be a solid source of innovation and renewal. And that is why the development of KM itself needs to expand into the direction of intangibles, social capital, and social development. In this respect, Firestone and McElroy do not challenge their audience as strongly as TNKM. TNKM demands attention for social innovation issues. But in Key Issues, the appeal seems to have dissolved into two streams. First, the element of learning and change still is present in the knowledge management life cycle, a core element of the books KM approach. But there, the innovation character isn't very strong, and 'just' part of a normal management process cycle. I doubt whether this will bring across the message as strongly as TNKM did. Second, the authors call upon the accountancy profession to improve on intellectual capital accounting and intangible reporting.
To conclude, Firestone and McElroy point to some really crucial aspects of KM, and provide a comprehensive knowledge management model. However, they seem to leave it up to non-qualified others to put their ideas into practice. Since social innovation and intangibles are such an important element of TNKM, I wonder why the authors seem to define the issue out of scope in their working agendas.